Celebrate! · Food

Macarons!

Tomorrow we’re doing a photoshoot for my little girl, complete with a cake smash! Despite her main birthday colors being pink, green, and gold, I decided to play with color and bring in a rainbow of sprinkles for her cake. I’m always drawn to cake pictures that have dimension, and I’ve seen several that include macarons on the top.

Fortunately for me, I took a macaron cooking class at Sur la table a couple of years ago and learned the techniques behind them. These delicate cookies take a little bit of practice, but they are fun to make, and I’m going to share some of my notes from class (that you don’t see when you look at a macaron recipe). Please note that weather can affect macarons. They are easier to make if it’s drier – I’m quite lucky living in the desert for this. If it’s been extremely rainy and humid, your macarons may not turn out.

I used the ingredients for a basic macaron from my Macaroons cookbook by Love Food. In my cooking class, we used the same ingredients, but we weighed everything. I thought it would be easier to list the ingredients in cups on here, rather than in ounces. Please note that the following recipe does not make very many macarons. You will want to double the recipe if you are taking them to a party. However, for practicing the technique, the smaller ingredients are perfect!

I began by measuring out almond flour and powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. Since it was very fine, I did not put it in the food processor. I placed it and the powdered sugar in my drum sieve and sifted it over parchment paper. Then I transferred the mixture to a bowl, used a fork to make sure it was mixed well, and set it aside.

Next, I separated the eggs, one at a time, and placed the egg whites in my KitchenAid mixer. I added a pinch of cream of tartar and then whipped them on a medium-low speed. You want it to get foamy (like beer foam) before adding the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in a couple drops of food coloring, and then increase the speed to high. Let it whip until stiff peaks form and it gets glossy in appearance. To check if it’s done, you can stop the mixer, pull the whisk attachment out, and dip it in the whipped egg whites. Pull it straight up, and if there is a peak coming off the whisk (and it holds strong), then it’s ready. I really wish I had taken a picture of this step; I will try to get one and add it in later!

Now it’s time to add in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. You want to add in a third of it at a time. Don’t pour it all in at once! You’re going to fold it in, using a clock-wise motion. Go around the bowl once (“clean the bowl”), cut through the middle, and then around again. Keep doing this pattern until it’s all incorporated. Around – cut through – around; around – cut through – around…

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Then I transferred the mixture into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. My class recommended a #12 tip, but I used a #10. It’s just one size smaller. (If you double the recipe, don’t overfill the bag! You can always add in more.) Get out a baking sheet and some parchment paper. Sur la table also sells silicone mats that have circles printed on them for macarons! (I traced circles on the back of my parchment paper but then decided not to use them.) To keep the parchment paper in place, “glue” the corners down with some of the filling.

Hold the bag straight up and down on the parchment paper and gently squeeze to let the filling come out. Use one hand to squeeze the bag and the other hand near the tip, as a guide. Don’t try to pipe circles. Just keep it in one place and count to 6. 1-2-3-4-5-6-stop. Keep doing this, leaving a space of 2 fingers between each circle. If you have a little swoosh in the middle, you can gently smooth it out with your finger (and a tiny bit of water).

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I made one extra (on the bottom) to taste test later.

Once the circles were completed, I hit the bottom of the pan on my table to release any trapped air. Then I walked away and let them sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I made a unicorn shirt for a friend… random request! 🙂

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After 30 minutes, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees and checked on the macarons. I let them sit another 10 and then they were ready to go in the oven. There should be a slight crust on them, and they should not stick to your finger when touched. They should almost seem hardened on the outside. I baked mine for 12 minutes, but I did check them after 10. Then I let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

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Later in the day, I made my buttercream filling. I beat the butter and vanilla extract, and then added in powdered sugar. Once it was smooth, I folded in some dehydrated strawberry pieces.

To assemble the macarons, you can pipe the filling on the cookie or just use a knife. I went the simple route and spread it on with a knife and then sandwiched the pairs together. (Kind of twist them together instead of smooshing them.) I tried to get a little extra filling in mine so I could roll the sides in sprinkles. Once you learn how to make the cookie part of the macaron, you can do all kinds of fillings. One of my favorites is a lemon macaron with a white chocolate ganache! Stay tuned and I’ll make that one soon!

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Recipe for Macarons
(Ingredients from Macaroons by Love Food; Directions from Sur la table cooking school)

Ingredients (for the cookie):
¾ c ground almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
2 extra large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (not in the book’s recipe; added in from my cooking class)
¼ c granulated sugar
Optional: gel food coloring

Ingredients (for buttercream filling):
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Optional: 4 strawberries, finely chopped ( I used a few pieces of dehydrated strawberries instead, chopped fine.)

(^This is a pretty standard buttercream frosting, just minus the milk. You want it to be thick for filling the cookie, instead of thinned out.)

Directions (for the cookie):
In a food processor, blend about a third of the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour into a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Using a drum sieve, sift mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the meringue: Using a mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment), whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once sugar is incorporated and mixture is thick, scrape down sides of bowl (add food coloring if desired) and increase speed to high. Whip until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold using a large spatula. Fold in the rest of the flour in two more additions, then check for correct consistency. The batter should be firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain round tip. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the bottom of each sheet on your table to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake macarons until crisp and firm, about 10-12 minutes. (If they are still soft inside, lower oven to 300, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top looks crinkled, your oven might be too hot!) Allow macarons to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

Directions (for the filling):
Beat the butter and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the strawberries if desired. Pair up macarons and use the filling to sandwich them together. (Spread onto the bottom of one and sandwich flat sides together.)

 

Food

Baked Ziti

Every Tuesday I take food over to my grandparents-in-law. I’m not sure if that’s really a word, but you get the gist. They like casseroles and comfort food, and I try to make something that will give them a hot meal and also provide my little family with leftovers. I also have to make sure that the food is easy to eat.

This week I wanted to try something different, so I started looking through various cookbooks for ideas. I decided on a skillet baked ziti from my America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. And then because I didn’t write down the correct size of canned tomatoes when I went to the grocery store, I ended up modifying the recipe. I did not plan to write about this recipe, so I didn’t take pictures as I went. However, my husband raved about the ziti and how I needed to make it again, so I thought I would share the recipe!

Ingredients:
4 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of pasta sauce (I used Classico’s spicy tomato and basil)
1 box of penne pasta (I used Barilla)
½ c whole-milk ricotta
½ c heavy whipping cream
½ c parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil + additional for garnish
1 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

I began by preheating the oven to 475 degrees and pulling out my dutch oven. I love using the dutch oven because it can go on the stove and then directly in the oven! I heated a little bit of olive oil over medium-high heat and then sautéed the minced garlic with red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Next, I stirred in the pasta sauce and moved the heat down to low.

In a separate pot, I boiled water and added the penne pasta. I cooked it for about 12 minutes and then drained the water. My noodles then got added to the dutch oven and stirred in to the sauce.

In a little bowl, I combined the ricotta with 1 tsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp each of salt and pepper. I then set it aside.

Next, the whipping cream, parmesan cheese, and basil were added to the pasta mixture. Once it was stirred in well, I dolloped the ricotta mixture over the top of the pasta and then sprinkled the mozzarella on top of that. I then turned the stove off and transferred the dutch oven to the oven for ten minutes. This made the cheese melt and brown in color. Once it was done, I removed it and added more basil to the top!

Baked Ziti

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 😊

 

Crafting

Diaper wreath

When I was pregnant, I received a really pretty diaper wreath, covered in cute baby items – onesies, socks, bows, bath toys… I had made a diaper cake before, but had never seen or heard of a diaper wreath! I loved this idea and knew that I wanted to make one someday. Today I finally got to do so! One of my friends is having a little boy in November, and I decided to make a wreath for her. I picked up a wire frame from Michaels, a small package of diapers, and an assortment of baby goodies. Then I waited until little one’s nap time to get to work!

I started by rolling up the diapers, one by one, and tying them with ribbon. (Rubber bands would have made it go quicker, but I only had pink ones on hand.) Then I tied each diaper onto the front side of my wreath. I used a square one for this project, and I like how different it is!

I used extra ribbons on the back of the frame to reinforce the diapers and keep them from moving around. Then I took some fabric scraps I had on hand and tied them on the back to hide all the mismatched ribbons.

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Once the back was covered, I flipped my wreath and began adding baby items on top of the diapers. I rolled up onesies, socks, wash cloths, and bibs. I also tied on a rubber ducky, spoons, pacifiers, some baby powder, and a fun teething ring.

This was a lot of fun to make, and I can’t wait to give it to my friend!

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Food

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Donuts

Good evening! I hope everyone is staying safe; the weather has been crazy lately. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, and I’m sad for those who are now being affected by Irma.

Today I decided to whip up something happy using ingredients already on hand, and I came up with gluten-free chocolate cake donuts. Because yum! Who doesn’t like chocolate? They were almost dairy-free, but I did use a few tablespoons of sour cream to make them moist. I only had unsweetened almond milk on hand, and it worked well! Next time I think I will sub out the egg with ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce and skip the sour cream, as the applesauce should help keep the donuts moist. Then it will be dairy-free and egg-free! I’ll let you know how it turns out once I try it. The donuts from today turned out good though; they taste just like chocolate cake.

I began by measuring out my dry ingredients and stirring them by hand. I used cup4cup gluten-free flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.

Then I mixed the wet ingredients with my KitchenAid, before whisking it into the dry mixture. These ingredients included an egg, sour cream, almond milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean paste. Make sure the wet ingredients get mixed well (especially the sour cream)!

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I greased a donut pan, dusted it with flour, and then poured the batter in, to fill each of the six cavities. Then they baked for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the donuts were cooled, I inverted the pan on a wire rack and prepared the glaze. I decided to use a similar chocolate glaze that I used on my previous post for banana chocolate donuts, but with half the cocoa powder, since the donuts are already super chocolatey! I mixed powdered sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup, vanilla bean paste, and water. Then I spread some glaze on each donut, topped them with sprinkles, and they were ready for eating!

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Recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Donuts

Ingredients for donuts:
1 c cup4cup gluten-free flour
½ c sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ c cocoa powder
¼ c chocolate chips
1 egg
4 Tbsp sour cream
¼ c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
¼ c vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla

Directions for donuts:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the wet ingredients. Then incorporate the wet mixture with the dry. Pour into a greased donut pan and bake for 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan and then remove before glazing.

Ingredients for glaze:
1 ½ c powdered sugar
1/8 c cocoa powder
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp water

Directions for glaze:
Whisk ingredients together. Using a spatula, top each donut with glaze and then add sprinkles!

Celebrate! · Crafting

DIY Picture Frame

Lately I’ve been doing more projects, and the theme seems to be wood! Wood reminds me of Autumn, and I can’t wait for the cooler weather and pumpkin everything. I’m especially looking forward to sweater weather and boots! My little girl will turn one this Fall (where did the time go??), and I must do my crafting while she sleeps, as she is into everything now! I’m currently working on various birthday party décor.

I wanted to buy a frame to hang pictures from, but they can be very expensive, and I couldn’t find one big enough for what I had in mind. I have been taking photos of little one every month and want to hang one from each month of her first year. Twelve photos are going to take up a lot of room! I told my friend Taylor about my vision, and she encouraged me to make it myself. (Taylor and I are always doing house projects together and sometimes have quite lofty goals. But we always manage to accomplish our tasks, even if they take more work than we imagined!) I thought, “Why not?” so she went to Home Depot with me to gather supplies.

I bought four pieces of hobby wood and asked one of the employees to saw them down to be 28 inches long. They each measured 2.5 x 28 x .5 (width, length, depth). I also bought some brackets with screws. (At home, I already had my other supplies, including wood glue, a drill and bits, and a screwdriver.)

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I began by sanding my wood and then laying it down into a rectangle configuration. I laid the brackets down and then used a sharpie to mark where the screws would go. Then I got out my drill and (using the smallest drill bit) made small holes on each mark. You have to be careful not to go all the way through the wood, but the drill helps make the screws go in easier later. (As a side note, I got to use a heavy duty electric screwdriver recently – if you own one of these then you don’t need to use a drill – but I was putting in my screws by hand and didn’t want to strip them, hence the drill!)

Once all the holes were made, I began loosely screwing the brackets on. I left a little space to squeeze in some wood glue, and then tightened all the screws. The brackets aren’t the prettiest, and I doubled up on them, but they’re on the back and doing their job!

Next, I decided to attach my wire that the pictures will hang from. I measured and made marks on both sides (on the inside of the frame) and then hammered three nails on each side. I cut wire (32 inches long) and twisted it up (2 inches on each nail).

Then came the fun part – painting and decorating! I used several coats of white paint and then affixed fabric flowers and glitter stars. I used removable mounting squares that I had left over from teaching. I plan to reuse the frame to hang Christmas cards and want to be able to change out my decorations! I cut out paper stars using my Cricut and glued them on to clothespins and then added glitter numbers. I still need to attach my picture hanging hardware to the back of the frame and then hang up photos, but I’m really pleased with how this project is turning out! It was a lot easier than I imagined it would be and cheaper than buying a frame. Another diy win!

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Food

Coconut Cream Pie

As promised, here is my grandmother’s recipe for coconut cream pie. It is a variation of her chocolate cream pie, and it’s delicious. I know coconut is not for everyone, but I love it, and it’s a great summer flavor.

And should you want the chocolate version, just replace the coconut with a Hershey’s bar and add 3 Tbsp of cocoa to the flour mixture. 🙂

This recipe calls for a baked pie shell. You can either buy one from the freezer section (Marie Callender makes a good one) or make your own! I went the homemade route and used the following ingredients:

1 ½ c sifted all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ c shortening
4-5 Tbsp cold water

I cut the shortening in to my flour and salt using a pastry cutter and then added a tablespoon of water at a time until I had a soft, pliable dough. This one can be rolled out right away; I used parchment paper with flour, which made it easier to transfer to the pie pan.

The crust baked at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes and then set out to cool. Then I got to work on the filling! (My crust doesn’t look the prettiest here, but the filling will cover most of it, and it tastes delicious!)

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You want to prepare as much as you can ahead of time because once it starts to thicken, you have to move fast! I measured and combined the sugar, flour, and salt in a small bowl and set it aside. In another small bowl, I cracked the egg yolks and whisked it with water. The remaining ingredients sat close by and ready to incorporate! (The coconut and butter were measured out, and a teaspoon sat next to the vanilla.)

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I heated up my milk in a sauce pan over medium heat and then stirred in the flour mixture. Then I turned it up to high to bring it to a boil. It began to thicken pretty quickly, and then I added the egg yolks.

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Off the heat, I stirred in vanilla, butter, and coconut until it was combined. I poured it in my cooled pie shell and then immediately placed it in the fridge. Mine sat and cooled overnight, and I prepared the meringue topping the next day, close to when it would be eaten.

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For the meringue, I used my KitchenAid to beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar. Once soft peaks formed, I added the sugar gradually and left it on high until stiff peaks formed. (Meanwhile, I preheated the oven and removed the cooled pie from the fridge.) Then I spread the meringue onto the top of the pie with a spatula, created a little bit of texture, and baked it for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. After it came out of the oven, I let it sit on the counter until time to enjoy it! Yum!

Recipe for Coconut Cream Pie
From the kitchen of Leslie’s Grandma Johnie

Ingredients for Coconut Cream Pie:
1 ¼ c sugar
3 heaping Tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp water
2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter
1 c coconut
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
Meringue or whipped topping

Ingredients for Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbsp sugar

Directions for Coconut Cream Pie:
Mix sugar, flour, and salt together; set aside. Add water to egg yolks and beat slightly; set aside. Heat milk in a large sauce pan. Blend in sugar, flour, salt mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to thicken, add in egg yolks, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and blend in vanilla, butter, and coconut. Pour into a baked 9-inch pie shell. Cool in fridge. If using whipped topping, put on cooled pie and refrigerate. If using meringue, see below:

Directions for Meringue: Beat egg whites and salt with cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, beating on high until meringue stands in stiff peaks. Spread over cooled pie filling and seal to edge. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, until browned, and then let pie sit out until time to eat! (Prepare the meringue the day you plan to eat the pie. Leftovers can go in the fridge – the meringue just won’t look as pretty afterwards!)

Food

Strawberry-Lemon Curd Tart

Can you believe it’s already August? Time has really been flying, and it has been entirely too long since my last post! I have been keeping busy with the little one and some sewing projects, including a baby quilt and a wipe and diaper holder for the car. I’m also always cooking or baking!

Last night I made a coconut cream pie from my grandmother’s cookbook, and wow, what a mess! The pie turned out great, but my kitchen needed a good cleaning afterwards. This is what happens when a naturally clumsy person decides to bake something late at night… Long story short, my whisk went flying, knocking a bowl of egg yolks and water onto the floor. I will probably be seeing yellow for the next month, despite my best mopping efforts.

I promise to share my coconut cream pie recipe a little later, but today I wanted to write about a different summery dessert that I recently baked. I won’t be posting its recipe on here due to copyrights, but I will give you my notes, should you invest in this cookbook and want to try this one day. 🙂

We have made some new friends with babies and enjoy getting out of the house and socializing. This weekend we were invited to a pool party, and I wanted to take a dessert. I pulled out my Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook and started thumbing through it for ideas. I’ve made the classic tart crust and custard in the past which is delicious, and I considered making it this weekend. However, the recipe on the next page for strawberry-lemon curd tart sounded fantastic.

And it did not disappoint!

There were a few things I would do differently next time to make the process smoother, but the flavors were on point. The lemon curd is tangy from the fresh lemon juice and zest, and the glazed strawberries make a sweet pairing for the lemon. The crust reminds me of shortbread and was a nice finish to the sweet and tart flavors. I wish I had taken more pictures as I assembled this tart, but it will just have to happen next time!

I began by creating the crust. I added flour, sugar, and salt to my food processor, as well as butter. (I cut my butter into little cubes so it would cut in to the mixture faster.) Then I pulsed the mixture until it became crumbly. I added two tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and 1 egg yolk and continued pulsing until a dough formed. While the recipe said you could use more cream, I found that my dough did not need it.

I flattened my dough into a disk and then wrapped it in saran wrap and placed it in the fridge. It needs to chill for at least an hour, but I let mine sit there overnight.

Next, I worked on the lemon curd. I whisked my eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Then I added the butter and lemon peel. I stirred until the butter was melted and curd had thickened. The recipe said 8 minutes, which I followed, but the mixture was thick after about 5.

Something I would try differently next time is melting the butter prior to stirring it in. I felt like the butter didn’t melt down smoothly enough even though I had cut it down into little pieces.

Once the curd was a pudding consistency, I poured it into a small bowl and placed some saran wrap right on the surface. Then it went into the fridge, next to my dough! (It needs to chill for at least two hours, but it can stay in the fridge for up to two days! Just note that it will be hard to spread into the crust once it stays overnight. Mine had to warm up a little since I assembled it the next day.)

The next morning, I took my dough out of the fridge and rolled it out. To make it easier to work with, I used parchment paper with flour. This way it wouldn’t get stuck to the counter. I also sprinkled some flour on top of the dough disk and placed parchment paper on top of it as well. It’s easier to roll, and the parchment paper keeps the flour contained = less mess! I transferred the rolled-out dough to my tart pan, cleaned up the sides, poked some holes in the dough with a fork, and then placed it back in the fridge to sit for an hour. Then it was time to bake it! Mine was ready after 18 minutes at 400 degrees. It was nicely golden and made the kitchen smell great! The crust is the only thing that needs to be baked, so once it’s cooled, the rest of the tart comes together quickly.

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I brought my curd out to warm up a little and then got to work cutting up strawberries. The recipe calls for whole strawberries, but I wanted the tart to be easy to cut, so I went with sliced. I used a spatula to spread the curd into the crust, and then I arranged strawberries on top of it.

 

Once they were all in place, I heated up ½ cup of strawberry preserves from a local orchard and then brushed the preserves on top of the strawberries to make a glaze. A ½ cup might be a good amount if you use full strawberries all over the tart; however, mine made way too much glaze, and I ended up dumping quite a bit down the kitchen sink. They just needed a light brushing to add a little more sweetness and keep the strawberries from browning. Then the tart was finished and went back into the fridge until time for the party! The recipe recommends it sits for at least an hour, but no more than 6. I did eat a leftover piece of tart for breakfast this morning (yes, breakfast…) and it definitely wasn’t as pretty as it was at the party. It still tasted just as good though!

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Bon Appetit Desserts, you win again! I have yet to find a dessert from this cookbook that I haven’t liked. If you’re interested in getting a new cookbook, this one is by far one of my favorites.

Food

Snickerdoodles

I was thumbing through my grandmother’s cookbook the other day and came across her recipe for Snickerdoodles. I tend to forget about this kind of cookie, and then once I make them, I’m reminded again of how good they are. I love cinnamon and sugar together! I’m going to a dinner tonight and thought it would be a good opportunity to whip up a half batch of this type of cookie. I may have already eaten three of them…oops! Maybe I should have made the full batch! Fortunately, they are in a container now instead of out on the cooling rack. No more cookies for me until later tonight!

These cookies are super easy and come together in no time! I began by measuring out my shortening in an adjustable measuring cup and then added the sugar and eggs. I creamed them in my Kitchenaid until it was a smooth consistency.

Then I took the remaining dry ingredients (minus the sugar and cinnamon) and sifted them before adding them to the creamed mixture. I used a tamis in a baking class a year ago and immediately bought one after the class to do all my sifting. A tamis is a French drum sieve, and it does a much better (and faster) job of sifting flour than the hand-crank kind. You simply lay down some parchment paper, throw your flour in the drum, and shake the drum over the parchment paper. Any large particles can be pressed through with your finger, so all the flour comes through finely.

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Once the dough was done I used my cookie scoop to scoop out balls that were all the same size. Then I made a cinnamon sugar mixture in a bowl and rolled each ball in the cinnamon sugar. I baked them in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and then promptly moved them to a wire rack to cool. They crack a little on the top, but get nicely browned and taste delicious! I hope you like them too!

Recipe for Snickerdoodles
From Johnie’s Kitchen (my grandma!)

Ingredients:
1 c shortening
1 ½ c sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ c flour, sifted
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
Mix together shortening, 1 ½ c sugar, and eggs. Sift flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix until well blended. Form into balls the size of small walnuts. Roll in mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. (These cookies puff up and then flatten out with soft and crinkled tops.) Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Celebrate!

Minecraft Themed Party

This did not get posted yesterday, so pretend it is still the fourth! 🙂

Happy Independence Day!

I LOVE themed parties and making decorations for them, so I decided to make another blog category, called “Celebrate!”. My nephew shares his birthday with today’s holiday, and he is obsessed with Minecraft. I decided to make him a few Minecraft things for his party, and I can’t wait to see his face when he sees everything in a little while!

My husband and I made a trip to Target for Minecraft birthday presents and we found sheets, some legos, and a Creeper shirt! (I’ve never played the game, but I am becoming very familiar with the characters and objects, as I have been perusing Pinterest and Google images!) We also ordered some “pixelated” sunglasses for everyone to wear by the pool.

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I decided to wrap the presents in Minecraft packaging, so I got out my Cricut and got to work designing images from the game. TNT, a creeper, and a diamond sword were designed and then cut and glued together.

With my Cricut I also cut out a larger diamond sword for the birthday cake. It involved a lot of squares! I glued the squares on cardstock, cut it out, and then glued squares on the back to make my sword double-sided. Then I laminated it so the frosting wouldn’t ruin it.

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I ordered a piñata from iPinata, a site I found through Etsy, and they did a great job! It’s a TNT cube from the game, and this object seems fitting for a piñata! Instead of an explosion of destruction, treats will rain down around the birthday boy! We didn’t want to fill it with just candy, so we picked up little toys – bouncy balls, decks of cards, Minecraft figurines, silly string… but I also bought candy that resembled objects from the game. Hershey nuggets symbolized iron bars, licorice bites became TNT, and Swedish fish represented fish from the game. I printed out the images from the game and stapled them onto mini treat bags.

Last, I made an individual cake for my nephew. His parents have an ice-cream cake ordered for everyone else to eat, but we thought it would be fun for the birthday boy to have his own cake. I went the easy route and used Funfetti cake mix and mixed the batter according to the box directions. I used a 4-inch round, filled it 2/3 full, and then poured the remaining batter into a 9×13-inch pan. The small cake went in first and baked at 350 degrees for about 27 minutes. It took a lot longer than I expected for such a small cake. (The larger cake was made and then turned into patriotic cake balls! I just didn’t use a whole can of frosting with it.) Once my mini cake was cool, I made up a delicious buttercream and tinted it green for grass. I covered the entirety in green and then put square candy melts along the sides of the cake to be dirt. (Note: I made the squares ahead of time and stored them in the fridge until time to use. I used milk, dark, and white (with green coloring) chocolates.) The Cricut-made sword will go into the cake once it’s ready to serve. A 4-cupcake box was the perfect size to store the cake overnight, and it should travel well.

In case anyone is interested in an easy, yummy buttercream frosting, here is the recipe my mom and I use:

Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
½ c Crisco (vegetable shortening)
½ c butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk

Directions:
In a large bowl, cream the shortening and butter and then add in the vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating on medium speed. Add the milk and beat until light and fluffy. When not in use, keep frosting in the fridge in an airtight container. It can be stored up to two weeks! Just stir before using.

(If you want it to be white, use clear vanilla extract. If you are tinting it a darker color, the brown coloring of the vanilla does not matter.)

I hope everyone has a happy 4th!

Celebrate! · Food

Death by Chocolate

My husband’s relatives are visiting from Brazil, and it’s his cousin’s birthday tomorrow! I love a good opportunity to bake, and a birthday is the perfect occasion! I decided on a chocolate cake and went with a recipe that is loved in our family. It uses boxed cake mix, so it’s simple, but the added in sour cream, pudding mix, and chocolate chips make it more moist, rich, and extremely delicious!

I baked two 9-inch round cakes and decided to put chocolate frosting and heath bar in between them. I pulsed heath bars in my food processor to make a fine powder for this. I wanted the flavor but not too much crunch in the middle of my cake. Then I frosted the entire cake in more chocolate and added heath bar to the top as well. I piped on a few dollops of frosting and then covered it up to sit overnight.

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I also made chocolate bark with heath and almonds and plan on putting some on the top of the cake tomorrow! I want to add some more texture to the cake with varying heights of bark.

To keep the chocolate theme going, I decided to try my hand at making a candy bouquet. I see them in stores all the time, and it didn’t seem too difficult. I bought some of the birthday boy’s favorite chocolate bars and taped them onto wooden dowels. Then I wrapped them in tissue paper and stuck them in a mason jar. I added some ribbon, glitter stars, and a birthday card and then it was done! Very quick to assemble, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

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Here’s to a fun birthday celebration tomorrow and most likely a chocolate induced coma!

 

Recipe for Rich Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 pkg (approx. 18.25 oz) dark chocolate cake mix
1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
½ c warm water
1/3 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 ½ c mini chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10 or 12 c Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Increase speed to medium-high; mix 3 more minutes. Stir in chocolate chips by hand and then spoon into prepared pan.

Bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Cool completely. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

(Note: I usually use a Bundt pan, but for this cake, I used two 9-inch rounds. They took about 30 minutes to cook. Just test with a toothpick before removing.)